Wednesday was a special day in Foxborough. Training camp took a backseat for a few hours while the entire Patriots organization – from the players, coaches and personnel department to Robert Kraftand the rest of his employees – gathered for a lunch to send off Andre Tippettas he prepares to depart for Canton, Ohio, and his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
At his morning press conference, Bill Belichickmentioned that he took a moment during an earlier team meeting to honor Tippett, which the former linebacker described as intimate, and termed himself an "emotional wreck."
"I think Bill wanted the opportunity to basically be in front of the team and share some special intimate time before I took off," Tippett said. "It was awesome, and got a bit emotional. … Listening to Bill say the things he said, I'm honored – 15, 16 years later, it's just awesome to get the confirmation from a guy like him, knowing his history and his background, and the people he's been around from New York, to guys he's coached here, and the championships. For him to co-sign on me like that, I'm very much appreciative. For him to stand here and speak to [the media] about me as a player, I'm overwhelmed."
Belichick spent the bulk of his briefing speaking about Tippett in glowing terms.
"We're really proud of him," Belichick said. "I just remember seeing Andre as a guy who was dominant – tight ends couldn't block him, they couldn't run outside to his side, they couldn't run off tackle to his side. He was a very powerful pass rusher, but he was fast and athletic, and he used great technique.
"He, along with some other players in that era like [Lawrence] Taylor, really that defined that position of outside linebacker the way we really see it a lot in the National Football League today."
Tippett followed Belichick to the podium, and then joined the entire organization in the Fidelity Investments Clubhouse for the rally. Kraft introduced him, as he will on Saturday, and an emotional Tippett received three standing ovations at the lunecheon. Tippett will be on hand for practice, where fans will have their chance to send their best wishes to the man Kraft aptly described as "the best defensive player in team history."